Tuukka Rask is statistically the best goalie in Boston Bruins history and just finished an impressive 2019-20 season during which he came in second place in the Vezina Trophy voting.
But the questions and debate surrounding his future with the franchise are not going away anytime soon.
Rask has one more year left on his contract that carries a $7 million salary cap hit -- the second-highest on the team. He's without a doubt one of the top-tier goaltenders in the NHL, but at 33 years old and with free agency looming next summer, the Bruins need to be proactive about his situation.
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Could a trade be one possible outcome?
TSN released its Trade Bait board Thursday, and Rask comes in at No. 10. TSN insider Frank Seravalli noted that the Bruins have gauged Rask's value on the trade market in recent weeks.
"Vezina Trophy runner-up Tuukka Rask debuts on the board at No. 10. Many were wondering if there would be fallout from Rask’s decision to leave the bubble for family reasons, a decision that was certainly supported by teammates," Seravalli writes.
"But multiple sources indicate that Bruins GM Don Sweeney has initiated conversations with teams about Rask’s market value over the last number of weeks."
Rask left the bubble during the Bruins' first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes to return to his family. The team and its players were fully supportive of Rask, and rightly so. Rask did what was best for his family amid a difficult time and shouldn't be criticized for that.
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Perhaps the biggest issue with trading Rask is the Bruins are in win-now mode and don't have an adequate replacement behind him. Sure, Jaroslav Halak has played pretty well as Rask's backup in Boston over the last two seasons, but he's not a Vezina-caliber goalie or one who's going to lead a team on a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins do have a couple promising young netminders in their organization, including Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman, but neither player is ready to be an NHL starter.
One place where the B's might be able to replace Rask if he's traded is free agency. There are several veteran netminders with quality NHL resumes expected to hit the open market. Five of them landed in the top 20 of our best free agents ranking, including Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom and Braden Holtby.
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If the Bruins intend to make another championship run with their veteran core, they need a goaltender of Rask's caliber. The Bruins don't have the necessary secondary scoring to win in the playoffs as currently constructed, so if they trade Rask and fail to replace him with a comparable goalie, it's hard to envision the B's making a deep playoff run in 2021.